Saturday, February 19, 2011

How high would you score as a 1930s spouse?

I love things like these Marital Ratings Scales from the 1930s, via Alexis Madrigal's blog on Wives and husbands score merits and demerits based on their habits – different habits for the wife than for the husband, of course. They offer a glimpse of how marriage and gender roles have and haven't changed in 80 years.

They're even based on actual science! Madrigal quotes the American Psychological Association's magazine,which reports that the chart's developer based the wife scale on interviews with 600 husbands about their wives' annoying traits. No mention of how he compiled the husband-rating chart.

Reading this, I can see why I'm divorced. It's obvious at a glance that my score would put me at “Poor” and possibly  the dreaded “Very Poor (Failure).” (What would the consequences have been for a spouse who “failed” back then? The divorce rate was pretty low—about 500 to 600 per 100,000 people in the 1930s, this website says, whereas in 2000 it was “ 9,255 per 100,000 for men and 12,305 per 100,000 for women.” Either spouses were hardly ever “failures” or … well, I can think of other explanations and ways people might have responded to  “failure” spouses in the 1930s, and most are either depressing or sickening, so I won’t go there. Sorry.)

Anyway, at one time or another I’ve done most of those bad things, and can’t be relied upon to do the good ones on a regular basis. For example, I haven’t darned a sock in years (specifically, all of the years I've been alive) and I serve meals on time only if by “on time” you mean “whenever.” And Merit No. 11, apparently the most important one on the whole questionnaire, worth a full 10 points? “ “Religious—sends children to church or Sunday school and goes herself.” I don’t do that. How interesting, too, that while not going to church is apparently deeply annoying in a wife, in the very next item a wife gets a point if she “Lets husband sleep late on Sundays and holidays.”
One demerit I didn’t get, luckily, was No. 5: “Wears red nail polish.” Plain old red? I agree, men of the 1930s, yawwwnnnn. I prefer tawny or cool shades:  green, lavender, brown, gray … Actually, I’ll go with just about any color that would never naturally occur on a mortal earthling.

How would you or your spouse score on these ratings charts? Have the traits that charm or annoy us changed much since then?


  1. Neat! I should show you some books I have. Two are "On Becoming a Woman" and "On Becoming a Man." A third, I don't remember the title, but it's about marriage. Of the good things listed about women, one is so priceless: "She enjoys the coitus." This phrase found its way into my stash of phrases. :)

  2. This is hilarious! Is it wrong that I want to game the system? "Okay, I can flirt with other men and dislike my kids, because if I take them to church on Sunday while my husband sleeps in I'm still ahead!"
    I found your blog after hearing you on Here and Now. Interesting stuff, especially as I have been in "early retirement" as I call it, since my youngest was born.